Stonington puts $50,000 in budget proposal for elementary school design work

Stonington - The town has included $50,000 in the proposed 2014-15 budget to fund the design of the long stalled elementary school renovation and expansion project.

The Board of Finance briefly discussed the proposed allocation when it continued its review of the budget last week. Both the Capital Improvement Committee and the Board of Selectmen have assigned the expenditure a "B" priority which means it is urgent.

Attention increased on the project last month when the finance board was forced to recommend that the town immediately spend $1.2 million to fix the leaking roof at Deans Mill School. The school along with West Vine Street School would be renovated and/or expanded as part of the project.

Whether or not the design allocation remains in the proposed budget will be decided in the next few weeks as the Board of Finance trims the budget and sends it on to voters for approval.

At last week's meeting, Board of Finance Chairman John O'Brien said he has received a number of emails from residents supporting the allocation.

When it was pointed out that to him that the emails should be printed out and distributed because board member Dudley Wheeler does not have an email account, Wheeler said "I don't want to see their bs."

K-12 School Building Committee Chairman Rob Marseglia said Sunday he is grateful the finance board of considering the allocation and hopes it will make it through the board's deliberations.

He said the money would allow the committee to take the next step of designing options and cost estimates "so we can make the right decision."

If the money is approved, Marseglia said the committee would hire an architect to develop a plan that residents could vote on late this coming fall or early next winter. By June 2015 it would submit the project to the state to receive reimbursement estimated to be about 30 percent. The project could cost $30 million to $40 million.

The finance board has been reluctant to support the project in the past because it did not want to add to the town's debt. Some of that debt is being paid off and Marseglia said the committee's plan is to stage the project so it does not impact the tax rate.


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